Belmont All Elementary Schools Meeting Notes

I attended the All Elementary Schools Meeting on Monday, February 4th at the Wellington School where Superintendent Holland presented the recommended FY09 budget. Here’s what I learned:

  • The Superintendent is proposing a  budget of $39.8 million to the School Committee, which is a $2.8 million increase or 7.5% over FY08
  • Most of the increase, 4.8%, is for teacher salary raises.
  • Mandated special ed spending represents another 1.5% of the increase
  • 0.5% or $202,500 is for new teachers to maintain class sizes: 2 at the Butler and Wellington added this year, one new 5th grade for next year (the 4th grade class is very large and so each year they move up another teacher must be added to that grade), and one new high school teacher. So adding a teacher costs $50,000.
  • K-4 enrollment continues to exceed projections. K-4 enrollment is 1450 this year versus a projection of 1432 made last year and only 1337 made two years ago. The projection for next year is about equal to this year but in FY09 there is a big jump up to 1493 projected.
  • Full-day kindergarten will cost $380,000 (about 1% of the increase) for making the kindergarten teachers full-time and for adding specialists and assistants. The town has won a “transition grant” of $150,000 that will be used for planning the curriculum over the summer and for purchasing furniture and materials. The school administration also recently learned that we are eligible for a “QA” grant for implementing the first year of full-day kindergarten that, if awarded, could be about $210,000.
  • A new position of Director of Guidance is proposed at a cost of $90,000
  • Recent negotiations for higher contributions by town employees for health care has resulted in $136,000 in savings in medical insurance costs
  • The town will meet on Feb 14 with the state school construction funding authority to “collaborate” on planning the new Wellington school. If that body approves state funding for construction then the town will have 4 months to have a townwide vote to approve funding. If the town doesn’t approve it then Belmont will go back into the queue of towns waiting to get school construction funding with diminished standing before the state authority. If the town approves funding then the plan is to start construction in June 2009 for occupancy in Winter 2011. During construction the students will likely be housed in modular classrooms at the high school, the Winn Brook or both.
  • The town currently has a projected $3.6 million deficit so it is likely that the proposed school budget will be cut unless an override is passed. The town is currently considering a “pavement override” for roads and a bond exclusion for the new Wellington, so a third tax increase will be quite a lot for voters to swallow at one time.
  • The critical meeting to attend for those who want to voice an opinion on the school budget is Saturday morning, March 1.
  • Fewer than 25% of the households in Belmont have children in the public schools

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